Random things

Back from the drinking sessionconference, with many good thoughts.

One in particular is due to the talk by Aiden Lyons at ANU on probability and evolution - after more than two decades trying to figure it out, I had to wait for a grad student to put it all neatly into perspective. His argument that there are at least three if not four senses or interpretations of probability and chance in evolution that - apart from anything else - prevents fitness being tautological, raises many more questions, but that is the nature of good papers.

Another, in no particular succession, is whether we need to start a discipline of Unapologetics to counter really bad theological justifications of religion.

I am also led by several papers, one by Peter Godfrey-Smith and another by Paul Griffiths and his collaborators Ed Machery and Stefan Linquist, both on the nature of innateness as a concept, and Paul's paper also on a concept - of homology - to wonder if there may be the beginnings of a historical critical methodology for constructing the likely speciality-specific deviations of terms like this from "folk belief", via the use of X-phi (experimental philosophy), developed initially by Stephen Stich. If we know pretty much what the naive folk concept is, then we have a good reason to think we can work out what semantic variables have been changed in the refiguring of a concept in a given discipline. Of course, there are complications - common sense is common only in the sense that it is what the wider culture receives from experts. So the current received meaning may already have been modified by the sciences (as in the concept of "species"). Food for thought.

More as it occurs to me.

More like this

Courtesy of Brian Leiter's blog comes a link to an article by Kwame Anthony Appiah in the New York Times about X-phi, or as it's better known, Experimental Philosophy. This is an approach to thought experiments that tries to find out what people actually think before launching into the sorts of…
Folks, I haven't forgotten you or the promised myth posts, but I've had to do some book stuff, along with Real Life stuff. So hang tight - I'm away this weekend (and - shock! - I'm not taking the laptop with me) but I promise something meaty on Sunday evening or so, OK? In the meantime: some X-Phi…
If William James were alive today, I'm pretty sure that he'd be an experimental philosopher. (He'd also be a cognitive psychologist, a public intellectual in the mold of Richard Rorty and a damn fine essayist, filling the back pages of the New Yorker and New York Review of Books with incisive…
Some bloggable items not worth a post on their own: George MacDonald Fraser died. The author of the Flashman series, which I loved. Creating one of the best rogues in literature, Fraser also managed to get the history right. Peter Hare died. Hare was one of the leading moral philosophers of…

Do you have any material on the concept of "unaplogetics?" And I want to thank you for the paper by Griffiths, Machery and Lindquist. PZ is going to give a talk here in Minnesota on the neural basis of religious belief, which some have recently been saying is "innate." I look forward to seeing how the talk and the paper fit together.

um, this is a Sokal-like parody, right? (I mean, except for the "I'm back" part.)

I was thinking of collating those jibes which arouse theocons to gibbering rage and calling it Apoplectics...

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 04 Jul 2007 #permalink

John - are you going to post more on Lyons' work? I'm interested in this, being an evolutionary biologist and a statistician and all that.


The issue here is that Aiden's work is still in progress. He's giving a version at the ISHPSSB conference in a couple of weeks. But it would be problematic to post his arguments in detail before he does.